You’ve probably heard before that there are many, many benefits to meditation. If you are currently in therapy, chances are your therapist encourages you to consider a meditation practice or even has you sit for short time during your sessions. She or he might even do some guided visualizations (a type of mediation) with you. You might know that meditation is particularly effective to help people heal from binge eating and bulimia. Getting started is pretty simple.
How to Get Started with Meditation:
There are several different ways to meditate and there is no wrong way to meditate. People tend to get very stressed out over doing it right. Many people say that they can’t empty their minds. That’s not the point. As human beings we really can’t empty our minds. People who have very serious meditation practices can get very close. However, it is a practice and a discipline and it takes time.
Try not to be black and white about it. Many people decide that they are going to wake up every morning at 5am and begin a meditation practice by sitting for an hour every morning. Some people can do that, but if you’re not able to, no big deal. You can do it at any time of day and you can do it for 4-5 minutes. Just that amount of time twice a day will have a big impact on you. As you continue, you will find that you can increase the amount of time that you sit. If you forget, you can meditate on the bus or the train on your way to work. You can walk into a bathroom stall at work and meditate in the bathroom. You can close the door to your office and meditate at your desk. You can always find 5 spare minutes to do this. Make it simple so that you’re set up for success.
Here are several different ideas for integrating meditation into your life. There is no wrong or right way. Just find something that brings you peace and relief.
- When you are ready to sit, try to find a place where you can sit in peace for a few moments without someone asking for your attention. Don’t worry about external noise or distractions. Those will always be there, even if you’re meditating on the side of a mountain in Kathmandu. Just allow yourself to close your eyes. Some people like to concentrate on their breath. That’s one great way to meditate. Notice the feeling of your breath and follow the steady rhythm of it. If you see that your mind begins to think about your day, that’s okay, gently return to your breath. You might have to do this 100 times. It’s all okay. You might even notice that you are feeling anxious about something. You can even name that feeling in your mind. “Anxious!” you mind say to yourself, and then return to your breath.
- Another way to meditate is to put your hand on your heart and just be with the rhythm of your heartbeat. Again, don’t worry about emptying your mind. When you notice that your mind says something or feels something, acknowledge it with love, then return to your heartbeat.
- Meditate on a word or phrase that is relaxing to you. Such as the word “peace,” and picture something calming to you such as the ocean or a meadow or a waterfall. And keep slowly repeating the word peace to yourself as you see picture the scene or imagine yourself in that scene.
- You can also scan your body and let each body part relax. Start with your feet and progressively set the intention to relax each part of your body from your feet to your scalp and then just allow yourself to breath.
- Meditate on compassion. As you breath, visualize yourself drenched in love and light and healing. Then, visualize someone you love drenched in love and light and healing energy. Then, visualize someone who needs help drenched in love, light and healing energy. Then, visualize someone you might be angry with or resentful of drenched in love, light, and healing energy. Then, visualize a nation in trouble drenched in love, light and healing energy. Then visualize the whole planet drenched in love, light, and healing energy.
- Throughout the day, check in with yourself to see if you can just bring awareness into your day. Incorporate mindfulness into your day to day activities, even washing the dishes. Feeling the soap on your hands and noticing what it feels like to accomplish the task of washing a dish counts as mindfulness. Check in and notice what emotions you are feeling. Check in while you are driving/riding to work. Check in while you are at your desk. Check in as you’re talking to different people to understand how their presence impacts you.
- Visualize yourself being free from the urge to binge. See yourself in a situation where there is food all around you. You know that food is what you use to nurture your body, not to hurt yourself. In using food to love and care for yourself, you understand that it is not dangerous so being around it isn’t stressful and it isn’t delightful, it just is a fact of life.
A daily meditation practice has been shown in several targeted studies to reduce stress and anxiety disorders, increase attention, mental awareness and creativity, reduce high blood pressure and decrease the risk for heart attack and stroke.
There are several reasons why meditation can be such a great tool to help with binge eating disorder. First off, according to a study out of Maharishi University in Iowa, meditation has a profound effect on stress levels. After studying people who participated in a regular meditation practice for four months, they found that the participants produced less cortisol (a stress hormone). Because they were so much less entrenched in their stress, they were better able to cope with the daily stressors in their lives.
Because so many binge eaters use food to relax, shut down, and decrease stress and anxiety, they find that when they use meditation to relax and reduce stress and anxiety, they no longer need to use food for that purpose.
Meditation also creates an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, reactions, behaviors, your compulsions and the actions they precipitate. As you begin to cultivate a practice of being more attuned to the way that your brain is working, you will find that you have more control over your compulsions and behaviors. For instance, in Vipassana meditation (also called mindfulness or insight meditation), you allow yourself to be with what is without judging it or trying to change it. If you are practicing Vipassana meditation one morning and notice that you are feeling angry, it’s okay to allow that anger to be there. What often happens is that people feel different feelings throughout the day that they put judgements on, like “I’m angry, that’s bad. I’m sad, that’s bad. I’m anxious, that’s bad.” When you notice your feeling with love and acceptance, remembering that as a human you are dynamic and have millions of emotions coursing through your mind and body at any given time, you won’t be as quick to try and change them, fix them, or make them end. Often, using food is a way to make the feeling go away or change the feeling or simply not feel it. This kind of meditation helps you to increase your capacity to sit with uncomfortable feelings without using food to push them away.
Third, as you cultivate an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you will notice before you begin to binge. So often, people don’t even realize that they are bingeing until after they are done. As you become more aware of your intention, you will find that you catch yourself before you act. You will be observing yourself with interest rather than disassociating. Because of this, you will be more apt to notice as you begin to go toward the food. You can then ask yourself, “am I going toward food because I am hungry or am I needing something else?” If you’re needing something else, you can then ask yourself “what am I feeling?” As you begin to notice what you are feeling, you can then understand more what you need. You can choose to nurture with something other than food. If you are actually hungry, you can then check in with your body and notice what it needs and nurture your body with food. As you do this more and more you develop a healthy relationship with your mind and body and are best able to meet the needs of your mind and body.